Perez hails "unbelievable lap" for ending long F1 pole wait

Sergio Perez says the lap that ended his long wait for his first Formula 1 pole position was "unbelievable", after beating the Ferraris in Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying.

Pole man Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, celebrates

In a close-fought final Q3 shootout at the Jeddah Corniche street circuit, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr led the way after the first round of attempts before being demoted by team-mate Charles Leclerc, setting up a Ferrari front row for Sunday's race.

But Red Bull driver Perez surprised the Ferrari duo by dipping 0.025s below Leclerc's time with his final effort. With his team-mate Verstappen settling for fourth, 31-year-old Perez sealed his first F1 pole for what will be his 215th race start of a career that began in 2011.

The Mexican, who becomes his nation's first ever pole-winner, says his 1m28.200s lap was "unbelievable" and doesn't think he could have gone any quicker on the high-speed street track.

"It took me a couple of races but what a lap, man, it was unbelievable," Perez grinned.

"I can do 1000 laps and I don't think I can beat that lap. It was unbelievable."

Perez said he didn't expect to be able to beat the Ferraris in qualifying, making his first pole even more memorable.

"We were not really expecting too much with the Ferraris in qualifying," he added. "We were focusing mainly on the race hopefully we'll get them tomorrow."

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Leclerc admitted he didn't expect Perez to beat his lap in the final seconds of Q3 and commended the "incredible" effort.

"The lap felt good honestly, I am very happy with the lap," said Leclerc, who won last week's 2022 season opener in Bahrain from pole.

"Qualifying was all about just keeping it on track and not doing any mistakes, which would have been very costly. And then in Q3 in the second lap, I just went for it and I more or less put everything together.

"There's a bit here and there but I definitely did not expect Checo to come with that lap time, so congratulations to him. I'm pretty sure he did an incredible job today.

"It's another day tomorrow and hopefully we'll have a good start."

Qualifying was delayed after a nasty accident in Q2 for Haas driver Mick Schumacher, who smashed into the concrete walls at Turn 12 after losing control over the kerbs.

Schumacher was taken to the medical centre by ambulance, where initial checks didn't reveal any injuries. The German was still airlifted to a nearby hospital for precautionary examinations.

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